Death

Holding Our Breath

LightThroughWater_PixabayMy daughter always preferred wading to an underwater experience. When she was little, she tended to gravitate to zero-depth pools. Even now, once in, she’d rather walk head-above-water than go deep, though she has grown in courage over the years.

The last few summers, she’s experimented with going under. This usually involved plugging her nose and puffing her cheeks, followed by a hesitant bow into the water that lasted a few seconds at most. By the time she was finally comfortable going under for more than a minute, the pools were closing for the season. I know it’s just a matter of time before she’s fully at ease underwater.

As the summer approaches, we’re preparing for fresh opportunities, and until then we’ll begin to practice holding our breath. After all, it seems like that’s all we’re doing lately…holding our breath. Waiting for this pandemic to end so we can come up for air and breathe once again.

In less than a month, our world has changed in drastic ways. Nothing is as it was, and we wonder if anything will be back to normal once it’s through.  We wonder when we’ll breathe that sigh of “we’ve made it through, we’re out of the deep.” And we mournfully remember those who took their final breaths in the process.

It would be a fearful time, if I did not know the one who holds my breath.

Last year, long before the pandemic hit, my dad took his final breath this side of heaven. In the days before he passed, I sat at his bedside singing hymns. When he had the strength, he’d lift his fragile hand as if to say, “I’d sing with you if I could.” When I shared scripture, he’d nod faintly in agreement. Until he was too weak to move at all. The last night I spent in his hospital room, he spoke the last words I’d hear him say to me. “Thank you.” He went to hospice soon after, and he died minutes after we’d surrounded him with songs of praise.

For us, it was a painful loss. But I imagine him arriving in heaven as one emerges from the deep, taking a glorious breath of untainted air.

And seeing him in his last hours has dissolved my fear with the confidence of knowing there’s one greater who holds my breath. The God who created heaven and earth breathed life into my lungs and new life into my spirit. His thoughts for me outnumber grains of sand, and he knows the number of my days. So even now, as our world is shaken, I will not fear.

I know who hold my life. I know who holds my future. I know who holds my destiny. And I know who holds my breath.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1-3)

 

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Not Afraid

Blog_MountainGloryThere’s something far worse than a deadly pandemic. It consumes more quickly, reaches farther. And it kills on a whole different level.

It’s called fear.

Fear begins by infiltrating our minds, methodically working its way to target our hearts.

If we allow, it will steal our future, and possibly our very lives.

These days it’s easy to get caught in the grip of fear. Leave the news channel on all day. Read the headlines. Listen to every alarming broadcast. Soon enough, you’ll fall victim.

Of course, we don’t want to be blind to what’s going on around us. We don’t want to be ignorant of world events. And we certainly need to be aware so we can respond with compassion.

But if we’re not careful, panic will overwhelm us and choke our breath more than any virus ever could.

When faced with the threat of death by fiery furnace, the three young Jewish victims spoke boldly to their tyrannical persecutor, “…we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18)

Even in times when I feel afraid, fear is overcome by the knowledge that my God can rescue me. He has a history of coming through in the most impossible of circumstances. Yet even IF he didn’t come through as expected, I have a greater hope that goes beyond the here and now.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. suspected his life was nearing its end when he spoke to a weary crowd in Memphis, Tennessee. “We’ve got some difficult days ahead,” he declared. “But it really doesn’t matter now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop…Like any man, I would like to live a long life. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will…I’ve seen the Promised Land…And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

He was killed the next day.

How could a man whose life was in imminent danger speak with such great confidence?

He knew of a greater Promised Land.

God is able to rescue us from the worst of circumstances. He is mighty to save. And YET…

When our purpose here is fulfilled and it comes time to breathe our final breath, there is a greater hope that lies beyond this earthen soil. Those who have placed their hope in the promise of Jesus Christ know that our last breath here ushers us into a place where there’s nothing left to fear.

And knowing this, we can live without fear.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

When We’ve Lost Everything

Each story in the history of our Savior involves loss, but also reveals how God is able to take the trials of our lives and turn them into testimonies. And each story reminds us that even when we’ve lost everything, we’re never alone.

 

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Genuine Gratitude

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Even if all we have has been taken from us, no one and no thing can take away a heart of gratitude. We can understand the importance of being thankful, but it’s not genuine until we actually GIVE thanks—especially when it’s difficult.

 

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A Necessary Reminder

 

Blog_FallLake.jpgGratitude reminds us that we have all we need. It tells us that loss brings life. It leads us to transform in the glory of knowing God’s mercies are new EVERY morning.

 

 

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Through the Fire

There are greater outcomes when we endure the furnace of affliction with grace, allowing God to birth in us a deeper compassion through the fire.

 

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The Most Hopeless Pieces

A skilled artist can transform the most useless items into something of matchless worth. And that’s what our loving God is able to do with the most hopeless pieces of our lives.

 

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